Eastleigh council boss Keith House has outlined his plans for implementing the cuts announced in the comprehensive spending review – plans which could include selling the current civic offices as part of an austerity drive.
In a statement delivered to council on Thursday, Mr House sought to assure members and residents that the council could budget for a reduction in the government grant without loss of services or increase in taxation.
Mr House revealed that:
- Cuts in Government grant would equate to a loss of £2.5 million or 18% of net budget
- There would be a reduction in staff including some compulsory redundancies
- The council would freeze council tax for 2011/2012 to gain a government grant equal to 2.5% of Council Tax
- Although no services would be cut, quality of service might be compromised – Mr House said they would no longer strive for excellence
- He believes the council can increase its revenue by borrowing money to buy office space to rent out – and to this end announced they will be purchasing Eastleigh House in upper Market Street
- They will be borrowing even MORE money to try and bail out another stalled capital project – River Side business park
In a separate statement Mr House confirmed that the council had no other plans in place for the 6000 home Botley SDA which was cancelled in July and that it could take up to 2014 to come up with an alternative.
Mr House hoped they could bridge the gap by encouraging landlordism, arguing that having 5000 tenants on 6 month short term assured tenancies creates a ‘mobile workforce’.
Mr House also said that the council was considering ways of ‘downsizing for times of austerity’ and this included the possibility of selling the current civic offices and moving back into central Eastleigh where the council already run an office.
“We can choose between modernising our existing building and improving a building in the town centre” he said.
He indicated that the civic buildings could make way for housing.
The matter will be considered by the Joint Scrutiny Panel in November before going before the full council the following month.
So the plan appears to be to protect services and fund a council tax freeze by borrowing money? This money will be ‘invested’ in offices and hotel projects which will generate revenue. Provided the underlying businesses are recession proof – what could possibly go wrong? What do you think?